Zimbabwe: Agroforestry Changes Life of Uzumba Farmer

Agroforestry in Masaka, Uganda (file photo).
14 October 2021

For Mr Musavhaya Geography Hodzi (81) from Zvauya village in Ward 11 of Uzumba Constituency, his keen sense of native wisdom and a deep connection with the earth makes practicing agroforestry for sustainable agriculture not just a pop catch phrase.

It's part of his life. For him agriculture matters most.

At his homestead, surrounded by granite mountains Chimhodzi, Nyakarongo, Gonon'edza and Chikushe and served by the Sikandoro river below, mixing crop farming with the planting of trees has done wonders for his once barren and unproductive land.

His evergreen ecological orchard in this dry and arid district is an envy for many.

"I'm not educated, but I learnt a lot from how our ancestors lived with nature, growing crops in a way that did not harm our environment," Mr Hodzi said.

"I have planted a lot of fruit trees. When there is a drought and my crops fail, I can sell fruits and buy food. Trees and crop farming go hand in hand and we need to do more agroforestry here in Uzumba and in Zimbabwe as a whole."

When planting trees, Mr Hodzi said he digs metre-deep holes which he fill with manure.

"This provides a lot of moisture to the trees," he said. "When the rains are not good, the trees still thrive and bear fruits. You should plant tree seedlings in heavily manured holes which are a metre-deep and wide.

"Through agroforestry, I can grow crops, fruits and engage in bee-keeping and fish farming on the same field as they complement each other."

Mr Hodzi worked as a gardener for several years, gaining a lot of knowledge and experience in agroforestry.

"I am not educated and I do not know my exact age, but I just know that I was born in 1940. Trees are life. We can use locally available resources such as dry leaves, grass and wood to grow trees and crops. You do not need expensive fertilisers."

Agroforestry checks all the right boxes as it promotes growing of trees and crops on the same land.

This win-win approach has many benefits to the soil, water and biodiversity for smallholder farmers.

In this era of global warming, landdegradation and other environmental hazards, agroforestry is a very necessary tool for sustainable use of natural resources.

"It has numerous benefits for our soils, reduces reliance on expensive fertilisers and chemicals," said Mr Hodzi. "All you need is to have the ability to source manure from the bush. Many people see this as hard labour, but I have conquered the fear of agroforestry. It's working and many people now visit my field to learn."

Many farmers in this district who are used to conventional farming methods perceive agroforestry as a risk despite the promise of increased yields.

Many, too, are still reluctant to venture into agroforestry, even after receiving training.

But Mr Hodzi has set the pace and is a role model to many farmers

He is very passionate about agroforestry and sees it as a way out of poverty and and a passport to food security"I sell fruits and tree seedlings to many people around here," he said. "I can earn around US$10 per day or make earnings of around US$300 a month selling fruits and vegetables.

"We sell our fruits and vegetables to gold panners and people at Nhakiwa business centre."

Mr Hodzi said hard work, eating healthy food and exercising were key to a long life.

"I worked as a gardener for decades. During the colonial era, bosses did not tolerate anyone who was lazy. You had to work hard under tough conditions.

"This made me become strong and fit. Many people are killing themselves by lack of exercise, eating unhealthy foods and drug abuse. We have to live well and eat healthy foods."

The Government promoted Pfumvudza/Intwasa farming concept more aggressively over the past year and many farmers are now embracing it.

When combined with agroforestry, the Pfumvudza helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduces air and water pollution and improves biodiversity.

Mr Hodzi's work has elicited wide acclaim from afar. Recently, Uzumba Constituency Member of Parliament, Cde Simba Mudarikwa, organised a field day where other villagers toured Mr Hodzi's maize fields, orchard, garden, fish ponds and tree nursery.

Cde Mudarikwa hailed Mr Hodzi and urged the community to emulate his work.

"If we had 100 villagers like him, we would not be in poverty," he said. "We would be better off. As farmers you must utilise available resources for personal, family and national benefit.

"Sekuru Hodzi loves his wife dearly. His love for his wife has rejuvenated him. Women and men must love one another and desist from domestic violence. With love, as villagers we can embark on farming and agroforestry, selling our produce to improve our livelihoods.

"Let's all work hard to fight poverty and hunger. Let's take interest in what we are taught about agroforestry, let's fight gender-baes violence and increase our productivity."

Agricultural extension officer, Mr Paminas Chipembere, said Mr Hodzi was a shining model for Uzumba.

"Sekuru Hodzi is a hard working man," he said. "He has so much wisdom and knowledge about agroforestry. He is our lead farmer on agroforestry and we have a lot to learn from him."

Mr Hodzi wants to establish an irrigation system using solar power to increase his yields.

"My main dream is to have a solar-powered irrigation system so that I can grow more fruits such as granadilla, peaches, oranges, mangoes and other indigenous trees such as musasa and wild plants," he said.

"I also hope to grow more pumpkins, sweet potato, beans, derere, papaya, pineapples, mikute and many other plants."

Agriculture matters, it is the biggest employer and when many farmers adopt agroforestry, they discover a more effective way to uplift themselves out of poverty.

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